Truthout posted today on “How Bernie Sanders’ Grassroots Fundraising Machine Is Defying the 2016 “Billionaire Primary”‘. The piece, written by Candice Bernd addresses the wealth primary—which FSFP’s John Bonifaz wrote about and The Nation discussed last May with Ari Berman. Our Legal Director Ron Fein also explained a few assumptions about the wealth primary, thanks in part to the National Review.
The piece quotes FSFP co-founder John Bonifaz and Jamie Raskin, a member of our Legal Advocacy committee,
“The “wealth primary” … sets up an economic gauntlet that, in every practical sense, prevents less affluent candidates – potential office seekers lacking both personal wealth and affluent backers – from competing for office. This system sharply reduces voter choice and falls with unequal weight on voters, as well as candidates, according to their economic status … This effect denies huge numbers of people meaningful electoral choice and unlawfully degrades their influence on the political process as a whole.”
Bernd also discusses the transition from the “white primary” to the “wealth primary“, identifying the exclusionary role of money in our democracy, explaining:
“The courts’ constitutional interpretation of today’s campaign finance system has largely been within the context of the First Amendment, where courts have weighed the supposed “free speech rights” of billionaires against stemming the corrupting influence of private money in elections.
But Bonifaz and others argue that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment should be applied to any modern analysis of the campaign finance system. Such an analysis, advocates say, would reveal an exclusionary system that plays an integral role in elections, and violates the equal protection rights of the non-affluent who are shut out of the process. Advocates point to two series of Supreme Court decisions bearing this out: one establishing that wealth discrimination in the political process is prohibited, and the other determining that exclusionary processes found to be integral to elections are unconstitutional.”
To read the full article and more about our argument to apply the Equal Protection Clause to our understanding of today‘s campaign finance system, click here.